New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg has taken up another public health initiative: smoking. This time, he wishes to target cigarette displays in stores in an attempt to “prevent another generation from the ill health and shorter life expectancy that comes with smoking.” Share the news: Tweet
It is the continuation of an ongoing battle against tobacco in New York. Bloomberg pushed for previous legislation that imposed heavy regulations on where one can legally smoke.
For instance, a 2002 smoking ban outlawed the activity in restaurants and bars. Another ban in 2011 prohibited smoking in parks, plazas, and marinas.
While controversial, these policies have had a notable impact on the city. Since Bloomberg began his tenure as mayor, the city has seen smoking rates drop from 22 percent to 14 percent, signifying “one of the fastest declines in the country.”
This ban is not a novel idea. In fact, other countries such as Canada and Ireland have implemented a similar ban, with analysts from both sides reporting contrasting results.
One report by the Institute of Economic Affairs claims that the ban in Canada has actually increased smoking rates, while also distorting the market towards illicit tobacco sellers.
“Display bans have distorted competition between different sorts of tobacco retailers,” states the report, “significantly affecting one sort of retailer more than others.”
Another report by the CATO institute claims that “bankruptcies in the Canadian independent retail sector are at a record high” since the implementation of the ban. Similar to the IEA, CATO has found that Ireland’s ban “doesn’t seem to have had much of an effect on smoking rates one way or the other.”
Other analyses paint a different picture.
A survey conducted by Cancer Research U.K, the Office of Tobacco Control, and the Irish Cancer Society found that “A third of the teenagers thought they or their friends could successfully buy cigarettes in June. After the ban only a quarter thought they would be able to get away with it.”
It implies that the ban specifically targets teen smoking and discourages children from purchasing cigarettes. In addition, the ban may help those wishing to quit, as less exposure to cigarette packages will help someone keep smoking off his or her mind.
As with Bloomberg’s previous initiatives, the question of the role of government comes into play. Clearly smoking, especially teenage smoking, remains a problem, with “80 percent of smokers [beginning] before the age of 18.”
The question remains, how can government set up an environment that serves the public interest while simultaneously maintaining civil liberties? It is a question Mr. Bloomberg has become far too familiar with.